Sanju a biopic on the current superstar Sanjay Dutt opened to theatres this weekend. The movie is a living testament of director Raju Hirani’s story telling brilliance and Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s penchant for quality production. One also feels the duo is a tad bit smitten by Baba (Sanjay Dutt’s nickname) with Munna Bhai MBBS and now a biopic. But, if their love for Baba brings quality cinema then who are we to complain. Sanju is juxtaposed with slapstick comedy inter mingled with emotional tear jerking scenes- as one felt the director is trying his best to relay a tragedy but not to lose the attention of the audience hence otherwise unscrupulous moments were made comic.
Sanju opens with Sanjay Dutt being given a month to surrender on charges of terrorism linked to the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb attacks. The story then progresses with a series of flashbacks and return to present and then to the final dénouement. The Khalnayak boy is essayed most superbly, read extraordinarily by the much talented Ranbir Kapoor. The whole film rests on his able and ample shoulders, be it the likeness in physicality, dialogue delivery or the quintessential Sanju swagger, Kapoor has nailed this one role as never before.
Though Barfi did provide Kapoor the title of a brilliant and most promising actor of our time, but Sanju is like ceiling it with conviction. Sanju’s character is most ably supported by an equally competent performance from the support cast. Starting with his father Sanjay Dutt played by Paresh Rawal who grew into the character scene by scene we feel the emotional distress on seeing his only son degenerate to drugs and alcohol in front of him. While at the same time to care for an ailing wife stricken with cancer and to keep up a bold upfront. Paresh brings across Sunil Dutt as a compassionate, caring and loving father yet one who does not really have a friendly connection with his son. He would sleep on the floor without a fan as Sanju is doing the same when he’s imprisoned but will not hug him or appreciate him for his film performances. This is a most relatable factor between all fathers and sons. Nargis essayed by the beautiful yesteryear heroine Manisha Koirala was a treat to watch. With limited screen time and appearance in one of the best songs of the movie Kar Har Maidan Fateh Manisha brought Nargis live on screen with her uncanny resemblance and superb portrayal of a mother trying to appear undeterred by a life threatening sickness. The fact that she herself is a cancer survivor put more integrity in her character. Nargis also appeared in the movie as the sole character that Sanju really cared about and listened to. His present wife Manyata Dutt is most convincingly performed by Dia Mirza. She is seen as the rock in Sanju’s life and throughout his incarceration period.
One actor, who I was looking forward to watch but who sorely disappointed was Jim Sarbh who played the drug peddler Zubin Mistry. He failed to bring across the marvel of Malik Kaffur from Baji Rao Mastani. His dialogue delivery, accent and persona seemed contrived and strange. Sarbh is a brilliant actor and more was expected of him. Anushka Sharma the writer from London is a fictional character in the movie who helps to take the story forward. She has performed well with a permed hairdo and chiselled getup to help bring the successful NRI to the screen. Likewise, the character of Kamlesh Kamli is an amalgamation of several of Sanju’s friends who helped him out in his time of need. Kamli is brilliantly performed by a more recent actor and one who will be most look forward for now, Vicky Kaushal. Hi Gujrati boli (talk) while twisting the English words brings many a laughing moments o the film. ‘Snakes’ for snacks and mispronouncing the ever so mispronounced Shakespeare to ‘Sex-pear’ Vicky lightens up the mood whenever tragedy strikes.
Sonam Kapoor is also mix of the many girlfriends Sanju had and she keeps her mantle as the sweet, innocent girl-next-door performance.
Hirani has mentioned in the film’s promotions he did not intend to glorify or redeem the protagonist. Instead he admits it throughout the film the hero is flawed, complicated who makes wrong choices and is also punished for it. In evidence of negating his quest for absolution for Baba, we see no mention of any of Sanjay’s mass box office hits. We are not told that out of the top 20 list of highest-grossing Hindi films of all times, as listed by Filmfare, three were Dutt’s magnum opus- Saajan, Khalnayak and Munna Bhai MBBS. And yet it is the enigma of Sanjay Dutt, his untainted core that with the support of a handful of people around him he has managed to extract himself from all the misfortunes. The movie if nothing else is a social message, for all families and the youth specially. As one member of the audience at the end commented ‘and we thought the movie stars led the most envious lives of us all.’ Touted as one of the biggest opening opening of 2018 at the Box Office surpassing The Avengers, Sanju is a must watch.
In January 2008, the Indian film Institute Filmfare listed 12 films featuring Dutt in its top 100 highest-grossing movies of all-time list. In its May 2013 edition 100 years of Indian cinema Filmfare listed three films featuring Dutt in its top 20 list of highest-grossing Hindi films of all time, adjusted for inflation these films were Lage Raho Munna Bhai, Khalnayak and Saajan.